Ever since the first video game (Tennis for Two) was developed in 1958, people have spent countless hours in front of screens, getting lost in digital worlds.
Due to the expansive number of gamers—recent studies show there are over 3.09 billion active ones worldwide—the video game industry is now worth around $197.11 billion. But while players eagerly dish out dollars to get their hands on the latest game titles, some prefer to earn money for playing rather than vice versa.
In most cases, the money earned is limited to being collected in the game itself. Because of this, it is of no real value in real life. However, some games allow you to earn real money that you can then cash out to spend in the real world.
Below are some of the best online games you can earn money from—either becoming an in-game billionaire and ruling the virtual world or making enough to enjoy the fruits of your playtime in reality.
Launched in 2003, Second Life is a video game which—strangely enough—its developers don’t consider a game. The game (or simulation) places players in a virtual world where they control an avatar of themselves.
There is no fundamental objective, story, or anything else you’d typically expect to find in a video game. Instead, the sole purpose of playing is to grow your avatar’s wealth and help him or her become established in the virtual world.
You can achieve this by buying and selling land, building real estate, getting a job, or even reselling items. Doing these things earn you Linden Dollars (L$), the currency used in-game named after the developer—Linden Lab.
While you may want to play only to have the highest net worth in the game, there is a chance to earn real money too. Whenever you reach a particular amount of L$ in-game, you can opt to exchange them for actual cash via PayPal.
The exchange rate of how many Linden dollars you need to get a single US dollar constantly fluctuates (as with any exchange in currency). However, as of July 2023, L$ 320 can net you one US dollar.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Grand Theft Auto (more commonly called GTA) is one of the most widely played and bestselling gaming franchises in history. And GTA Online, the online version of the game, lets many players engage in its expansive virtual world simultaneously—meaning you never know what to expect.
The game doesn’t allow you any chance to gain money in real life. However, any fan of the franchise knows that making bank in the game is critical. Thankfully, there are many ways to do this.
Among the most popular ways to earn money in the game and become the king of cash is to perform heists. Here, you’ll need to use your expertise in stealth, mischief, or outright violence to pull off incredible thefts. Each of these comes with a payday that will have you smiling all the way to and from the bank.
If you want the payout without any of the effort involved in pulling off the perfect heist, there is an alternative. The Diamond Casino, a location heavily featured in some parts of the game’s story, is also home to the Lucky Wheel.
Gambling in a video game may seem like a waste of time, especially if there are new cars to be stolen at every turn. However, spending some time (and a little cash) to get a spin at the casino is a great way to get great returns on your money and quickly become one of the wealthiest players.
Red Dead Redemption 2
The simple life of country living and survival and the action of adventure and mayhem are perfectly combined in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2. And if you like living the high life as a traveling outlaw in the West, this game is one you have to play.
Dispersed among the action of shootouts and explorations is collecting enough money to keep you (and those close to you) alive and able to afford resources. To do this, you’ll need money, and if you want to really succeed, you’ll need lots of it.
Thankfully, the game’s open-world environment gives you plenty of ways to get some. Of course, completing missions and collecting wages for your hard work is one way to get some cash. However, this may take time and requires a great deal of effort.
Robbing banks and trains, finding hidden businesses dealing in unsavory practices, or even gambling to win a quick buck are much better—and more enjoyable—alternatives.
However, if you don’t feel like doing any outright illegal activities, there are more options than just working. You can become a bounty hunter tracking down those on the run from the law or a tradesperson of horses who wrangles and sells them for profit.
While doing this can earn you a decent-sized wallet, this fortune will be limited to the game, and there is no way you can turn it into actual cash. However, you’ll have full bragging rights as one of the West’s wealthiest outlaws.
If winning real money is something you’re interested in, the online slots accessible through online casinos are a great way to do so (depending on your state).
Almost all casinos have extensive libraries of slot games, usually with over 400 titles from popular studios like NetEnt and Evolution Gaming. In many cases, these games offer free demo modes to play free of charge as you try to see how much you can win.
If you’re serious about winning, you can play for real money. Doing this may cost you something when you deposit, but it can yield massive results if Lady Luck is on your side.
A great example is one lucky Belgium player who struck it lucky in 2021 and won $23.6 million playing the famous Mega Moolah slot online. Before this, in September 2018, a British player won £18.9 million (approximately $23.2 million at the time) after wagering less than $1.